What is authenticity? No question is more hotly debated or relevant today because marketers’ roles have fundamentally changed. Their brand is not decided in the boardroom but in the collection of what consumers say across tens of millions of Instagram, Snapchat, and social media interactions – every day, all the time, often out of earshot. It leaves brands in less direct control and many are adapting to a new method of influence: guiding consumers to buy instead of selling to them. The brands that will be most successful in the coming years are those that crack the authenticity code.
This article originally appeared in Econsultancy’s Digital Outlook for 2019, read the report here.
Trend 1 – Influencer marketing is now mainstream
Influencers – once derided as a fleeting fad – now perform a vital function in the digital ecosystem as matchmaker. They legitimize brands in the eyes of skeptical consumers, who gladly block or ignore ads but trust influencers’ advice. Influencer tracking technologies have also improved to make the intangible concept of authenticity visible and, at least partly, measurable.
A study by Mavrck found that influencer-generated content is 6.9x more effective than studioshot content. That is a tremendous gain over the bleak conversion rates many marketers are accustomed to in digital ads, which is why brands are expected to pour as much as $2.38bn into influencer marketing by the end of 2019.
Trend 2 – Brands will need to infuse data-driven decisions with empathy in order to reach customers successfully
The Wild West era of data use and abuse is nearly behind us. Scandals like those that plagued Cambridge Analytica have shattered consumers’ faith that brands have their best interests in mind, and legislation such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation and California’s consumer data privacy law – believed to be the toughest in the US – have empowered individuals to opt out of data collection and demand companies delete their records. If brands want consumers to continue to share, they must be clear about their intentions and use that data to strengthen relationships, not just to sell.
Trend 3 – Scalable, multichannel video campaigns will become the foundation of effective marketing strategies
By the end of 2019, video will account for 80% of all internet traffic, reports Cisco, and according to eMarketer video now accounts for 25% of all US digital ad spending. Especially exciting to consumers are stories and ephemeral videos such as Instagram Live, Snapchat video messages, and Facebook Live streams, which offer fleeting connections in a digital world where most content is premeditated and permanent. Brands and advertisers that adopt a test-and-learn approach to producing video content typically see a 1.5-2x lift in average view time and completions, and find that creative quality determines 75% of the impact of the content as measured by brand and ad recall, according to Facebook. In a marketplace flooded with content, nothing feels more real to consumers than brands that are willing to press play.
Trend 4 – Brands will be expected to boldly uphold shared values
As the world undergoes a shift to a confusing digital economy and widespread political deadlock, there is a rising sense that someone should do something. To consumers, that someone is brands. Consumers actively seek out brands that share their values and take brave and bold action to uphold them. Sixty-four per cent of consumers who say they feel a relationship to a brand cite “shared values” as the primary reason, reports the Harvard Business Review. Brands, for their part, are getting it. Nearly 70% of CMOs say connecting their brand to social issues is an important way to engage consumers. And as younger consumers become wealthier and overtake older generations in spending power, their desire to see brands perform ethically is expected to grow.
Trend 5 – Well-crafted customer experiences that enhance the purchase process will help brands build a loyal following
The impulse to offer experiences explains why, in the midst of the so-called retail apocalypse, ecommerce companies are pouring money into brick-and-mortar locations. Direct-to-consumer brands want to surprise and delight consumers and help them fall in love with the treatment around the product. And it works. Eighty-six per cent of buyers say they will pay more for a better customer experience, and companies that prioritize the customer experience earned a 43% performance increase, according to Vision Critical. Today’s brand value propositions are not about products but how they make buyers feel.
Download our strategy guide, 5 Trends Inspiring the Future of Brand Authenticity, here.